There are a lot of things that people hate in life, things that might not seem terrible on the surface but have the ability to nag at you, eat at you, annoy you to the core. Some examples include biting into an apple and finding it to be soft, leaving a game early and missing a miracle comeback by the home team, parking in a no-parking space for less than 60 seconds yet still getting a parking ticket. But of all of those annoyances, nothing angers a guy more than when he bumps into an ex and finds that she is happier without you, much happier than she ever was with you. We take it as a personal insult, as a commentary on ourselves. It is not good.
An extension of the same thing happens in sports, when a player leaves your hometown team and instantly explodes into a successful player (or even a superstar) elsewhere. Toronto sports fans know this feeling all too well, not just in baseball but in all sports. Conor Casey played two matches for Toronto FC, was kicked out the door to Colorado, then promptly exploded to score 16 goals in 24 matches to finish second in the goal scoring race behind Jeff Cunningham, another former TFC player. Ask a Leafs fan about Tuuka Rask, Alyn McCauley, or Brad Boyes and you’ll probably hear a string of curse words directed at upper management. The Jays have a few that have stung over the years as well, most notably 2005 Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter.
But of all the players to leave, there is nobody that angers me more than Eric F-ing Hinske. You remember Hinske don’t you? He was the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner for the Blue Jays. After a season that saw him hit .279 with 24 HR, 84 RBI, and 13 SB Hinske was the toast of the town, expected to team up with Delgado, Wells, Stewart, and Alex Gonzalez to lead the Jays back to the playoffs. But a funny thing happened to Hinske after he won the ROY. He got fat. He got lazy. He forgot how to play defense. He no longer could hit, either for average or for power. He was so badly out of shape that Toronto sports writers wondered aloud whether or not he actually ate his rookie of the year trophy. The Jays finally tired of him and dumped him on Boston – a division rival no less! – in 2006.
We all know the story from there. Hinske swallowed a horseshoe and became the luckiest player in baseball, maybe even in the history of sports. With very little to offer, Eric went to three consecutive World Series, winning two rings. His luck is chronicled in an article I wrote for TOSports.
This offseason Hinske signed with Atlanta. The Braves were expected to possibly contend this year, but playing in the same division as Utley, Howard, Rollins, Werth, Halladay and the rest of the Phillies, it looked like the Wild Card might be their only chance to reach the postseason. There was little chance that Hinkse was going to come back to haunt me yet again. Until this morning…
Playing in a competitive fantasy baseball league, I found myself slowly but surely falling down the standings, from first to second to third. Needing an offensive boost, I took a look at the free agents available in the pool and sorted by RBI’s. To my shock, suprise, and horror, Eric Hinske floated towards the top. With only 68 AB on the season, Hinske has 20 RBI – a pace that would put him over 145 RBI if projected to a full season. He also has 4 HR and is hitting .368 with an out-of-this-world 1.127 OPS. How is this possible?
Toronto is playing excellent baseball but has a serious lack of depth that might become a large issue the deeper the season becomes. Their current bench (catchers excluded) of John McDonald, Jeremy Reed, and Mike McCoy have COMBINED for 92 AB and produced a .272 avg, 0 HR, and 5 RBI. In other words three players have combined to a produce a fraction of what Hinske has produced on his own.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a plea to Alex Anthopoulos to re-acquire Eric. There is no way that we want Hinske back in town. There is no way that we want him playing, or trying to play, 3B or OF for the 2010 Jays. But he is a living, walking, and breathing vision of everything a Blue Jays fan does want – a productive bench, playoff appearances, and world series rings.
And he doesn’t deserve any of it.